Need expected to intensify after storm
While the food may be ample around many dinner tables, the Salvation Army of Beaufort County has had to turn down help to families in desperate need of a meal.
“Our pantry is extremely low, and we are in desperate need of food for the people of our community,” said Captain Wanda Long, Salvation Army Corps officer.
With only three cans of corn, three cans of green beans, and a limited supply of other items available on the shelves of the Salvation Army’s food pantry, to say the need is urgent is an understatement.
An estimated 20 heads of households come in each day to seek assistance for a family of at least five, and “that’s on a slow day,” said Amber Hewitt, Social Service Director.
“We have to say ‘no’ so often, and that bothers me, especially when there are small children involved,” Hewitt said. “We can’t save everyone, but we want to do as much as we can.”
The Salvation Army food pantry has been in the community since 1973, and this is one of the worst times it has seen, Long noted.
“I’ve been here a few months, but I’ve never seen the pantry this low,” she said. “Three cans of green beans don’t go very far when we’re trying to assist families in Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.”
An average food bundle for a family may consist of three meals including cans of vegetables, rice, cereal, meats and dry beans, and fresh produce, when available.
Long says there’s been a dramatic increase in the demand for food assistance in recent weeks, and the need is only expected to increase in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
“We had a great influx and we’ve had more food going out than we had coming in, she said. “We receive about 250 calls a day asking for assistance. We rely solely on the help of the community to be able to help the families that come through our door because they have nowhere else to turn.”
The calls range from regulars to new families that have fallen on hard times or are seeking help for a family member who is recently unemployed, Long said.
She encourages individuals, families, churches and civic organizations to help by donating food and dry goods.
“Search through your own pantry, search through your heart; there is always something to give,” Long said.
Long and Hewitt say people can assist their efforts by visiting the grocery store and picking up a few extra items to donate. Companies and restaurants can donate their unused food inventory as well, they said.
Long says she knows personally what it’s like to be in need.
“I was one of those children that the Salvation Army took care of,” she said. “I was fed from the food pantry. We were the true Angel Tree kids, and for my family it wasn’t a hand out, it was a hand up.”
“Need knows no criteria of people,” Long said, adding the Salvation Army serves people of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Families can utilize the food pantry once a month,” Long noted. “There are guidelines they have to adhere to, but we never want anyone to go hungry. We’re trying to do what we can and have the greatest impact.”
A growing population of individuals and families are coming from homelessness and turning to the food pantry for their primary source of assistance, she said.
There is a need for “pop-top, ready-to-eat cans of food” for homeless men, women and children throughout the four counties, Long said.
“It’s heartbreaking to have to tell a family, ‘We have to refer you to another agency because we don’t have enough food,’ ” she said.
This past year, the Salvation Army helped more than 4,000 people with food, Long said. More than 15,000 items were distributed, including infant and school supplies, and more than 80 families were saved from utility disconnection and eviction this past month alone, she added.
Second Helpings is a current donor to the food pantry.
Free loaves of bread are available at The Salvation Army courtesy of Second Helpings.
Food items and monetary and gift cards may be donated from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday throughout the year at The Salvation Army, 2505 North Street, Beaufort, SC. To reach the office, call 843-524-3727.